August 26, 2017
Day 114: Big Lake Youth Camp to Mile 1994.6
After I was dropped off by the wonderful family I stayed with the night prior, I decided I was going to treat myself for my birthday. I proceeded to get a pedicure and was really craving Thai food. I decided to try to hitch to the Thai food restaurant. I am sure I have expressed this before, but I really dislike hitching. For me, it was such an overwhelming sensation of mixed emotions. It was different in larger towns than the smaller towns that revolved around PCT hikers. In smaller towns, everyone knew that I was a PCT hiker. They knew I wasn’t homeless. They looked up to me, not down upon me. In larger towns, I would stick my thumb out, succumbing to vulnerability, and with every passing car, the feeling of rejection was taken with it.
So, there I stood, with my ‘It’s My Birthday’ hitching sign, one car after another, passing me by. The joy I was feeling from the night prior and from my birthday pampering, was slowly starting to fade. I soon accepted defeated, safety pinned and did what I do best, just kept walking.
That was, until a local trail angel passed me by, pulled over and asked where I was headed. I told her I was going to the Thai food restaurant and she graciously offered me a ride. We got chatting and I explained to her that I had arranged an Uber to take me to Big Lake Youth Camp for $100 and she said she would take me.
Not only did she offer me a ride, but she treated me to Thai food, had the waitress bring out dessert with a candle and sang Happy Birthday to me.
After a wonderful meal, we stopped for ice cream and she took me to Big Lake Youth Camp. She was so wonderful. I of course offered her money in return for all of her generosity, but she selflessly declined. These interactions, these wonderful people, are what makes this trail so incredibly special.
Most people were skipping the 20 open miles at Big Lake Youth Camp because of the fire closure before it, and the fire closure after it. My mother had sent a birthday box to Big Lake Youth Camp and I really wanted to walk across and of course, take my photo at the 2000 mile marker, so I decided to do some of the open miles and pick up my birthday box.
No matter the miles, or condition, my mom always finds a way to make me feel so incredibly loved. I quickly packed up, got back on the trail and anxiously searched for a camp site prior to the sun setting.
Those who missed this section of the trail, were not missing much. A lot of the trees were burnt from previous fires. Ashes were falling from the fires in the near distance. The smoke was a bit overwhelming.
I came across the only decent looking camp spot in an open backcountry parking area. I set up camp and fell asleep.
August 27, 2017
Day 115: Mile 1994.6 to Mile 2000 to Mile 1998
Eventually, my body slowly decided to move about in my cozy sleeping bag. Upon opening my eyes, it appeared to have snowed, but the white dusting that covered my tent was merely ashes, not snow. I felt as if I was in one of those erupting volcano action movies. I worried the fire had not gotten closer than the day prior, or the fire closure was stretching further than it already had. The parking lot I decided to pitch a tent in, had gotten unexpectedly crowded with equestrians and day hikers. I quickly packed up my tent and was on the move to find mile 2000.
My personal trail angel, fellow travel nurse friend, Nolan, wasn’t picking me up for a couple hours, so I decided to hitch back to Sisters. I was going to get some food and hang around town to pass the time. I thought being so close to the trail, hitching would be easier than it was in Bend.
After trying to hitch for about 20 minutes without luck, I decided to stop and have some food before continuing to try and hitch. A few moments after I sat down, a man pulled up besides the road and asked if I needed a ride. Of course I said yes! It was soon apparent that this man, was not familiar with the PCT, or the hikers on it. He was a truck driver, going out to Idaho to start a new trucking job. He explained to me that he only picked up solo females, never males. My danger sensors started increasing at this time. He then proceeded to ask me if I ever offered anything for rides. I told him I typically offer people money, especially if they are going out of their way to give me a ride.
Disclaimer: please excuse my upcoming vulgar language.
He then told me that he has had women offer “titties” in the past and asked if I would be willing to do that? Trying not to panic, or let the fear inside of me show, I quickly said, “No, but I can give you money.”
At this time I turned on my GPS tracking device and texted my best friend and told him of the situation and to keep an eye on me. The creepy man then asked me how I made money, in which I was quite confused by the question. He told me that one of the gals he picked up, made $120 in two days. I asked him if she was homeless and he said yes. I then realized that he thought I was homeless. I said, “I’m not homeless! I’m a nurse and this is a vacation like hike”.
Thankfully I safely made it to the first gas station we came to, and asked him to drop me off. I had taken for granted, all of the wonderful rides I had received prior to this, through hitch hiking, to a point in which I had become quite naive. I was pretty shook up after this incident. However, once I met up with my friend, my fear and dismay vanished.
I only had a day two nights before really needing to get back on trail, but we made the most of it.
Even the dinosaur wore a mask to protect against the smoke!
August 28, 2017
Day 116: Zero Day Breitenbush Hot Springs
We spent the following day and night at Breitenbush Hot Springs. It was a very interesting and unique experience. Clothing is optional and they serve only organic vegetarian food, which actually turned out to be quite delicious. A few of my trail friends were very surprised that I had never been skinny dipping. Cannonball and Storyteller made it their goal to get me to skinny dip before the end of the trail. Although that never happened, when no strangers were around at the hot spring, I did take advantage of the clothing optional rule… for maybe 10 minutes. I was pretty proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone, but can’t say that I would do it again!
The outside showers were my favorite. The day was well spent relaxing in hot springs, hydrating, and relaxing.
August 29, 2017
Day 117: Mile 2036.9 to Mile 2070.9
Elevation Gain: 3,580 feet
Elevation Loss: 5,760 feet
We left Breitenbush Hot Springs around 6 am. I am pretty sure we went out the wrong exit and I am pretty sure we ended up on a fire closed road because there were small flames in the tree line next to the road. Google Maps took us down a super skinny one lane gravel/small boulder road to the trail. Why Google Maps would take anyone down that road is beyond me! At least we didn’t have to take a super long detour. Thank goodness Nolan had a Jeep!
The road that led us right to the trail from the other side of Breitenbush Lake, which was probably closed as well, but there were no signs. This allowed me to get on at the northern most part of the closure, and not skip any more than necessary.
When it was all said and done, I missed 79.4 miles because of the fires in Oregon.
The entire 34 miles of the day, were in the forest. It was quite the boring day. How do I keep myself entertained? I’m glad you asked! I timed my miles. With breaks, I kept a minimum of 3 miles per hour. If I was really bored, or trying to get somewhere by a certain time, I aimed for 4 miles per hour, which required a slow jog the majority of the time. Sometimes I tried to beat my 10 minute mile time. I also watched a movie that I rented (and was about to expire). I know, I should have been enjoying nature and the beauty around me, but I am just not a fan of hiking in the forest. It all looks the same to me. I love the panoramic mountain views, the glacier blue alpine lake, the wildflowers surrounding the foreground of the cascading waterfall, you know, the photogenic scenery. I expected Oregon to be a green tunnel of trees, but I didn’t expect a green tunnel of high desert. I expected a green tunnel with waterfalls around every bend in the trail. In some ways, Oregon has exceeded my expectations, so I suppose I should not have been complaining.
I wanted to try and get 40 miles in (to get to the breakfast buffet at Timberline Lodge the following day), but didn’t get started until 9 am. So, when it got dark out, I started to get a bit freaked out. Then, I came to an awesome pacific crest trail sign that I wanted to get photos of in daylight, so I decided to set up camp. The sign was also by a decently trafficked forest road, which made me feel a bit safer in regards to large animals trying to eat me.
I had to settle for the lunch buffet because I wasn’t going to conquer 23.5 miles before the brunch buffet ended.
August 30, 2017
Day 118: Mile 2070.9 to Mile 2094.4
Elevation Gain: 4350
Elevation Loss: 1760
I started before the sun came up and got very distracted when I came to a beautiful lake with a beautiful sunrise. I couldn’t help but stop and take photos.
Had it not been for the buffet that I was trying to get to, I would have spent the day at this lake. That sounds terrible, I know!
About 3/4ths of the way through the miles, I started getting glimpses of Mt. Hood through the forest. She was such a beautiful sight. This was one of my favorite days in Oregon. I had to pick up the pace to make up for the time I was taking to admire all of the beauty that surrounded me.
I suppose I got a bit cocky with how fast I can, and was going. Not to mention, I was trying to make the lunch buffet said to be the best meal on the PCT, at Timberline Lodge. As I was running down a steep decent, picking up momentum, excited that I would have plenty of time to get seconds, thirds and maybe fourths at the buffet, my life flashed before my eyes.
My right toe caught on one of Oregon’s many camouflaged rocks. I didn’t even have enough time to attempt to catch myself, as fast as I was going. My entire body, with the weight of my pack, which forced me even further and harder, crashed into the rocky dirt trail. My left shoulder was awkwardly under my body. My wrists and palms were throbbing. You would think after previously having used my hands to try and catch myself from falling, resulting in me breaking my wrist and the surgical removal of a bone, I would have learned to not do this, but it is still pure instinct. In the less than 5 seconds before hitting the ground, on multiple occasions at that point, the only thing that is going through my head, is “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit”. So I am not quite sure how I am expected to think about not instinctively using my hands to catch myself from falling, but I am still working on it!
I was legitimately concerned with the way my body was aligned that I had dislocated my shoulder. I had to get up though, there was still time to make the lunch buffet. I refused to miss it, especially after this. I slowly emerged from my tangled body position and examined my body.
My hand was throbbing and blood was running down my leg, but I did what I do best, and just kept walking. With only a few miles left, I was sure that I could still make it in time for the lunch buffet.
That was until I ran into 1.5 miles of thick sand with a steep ascent. Every step resulted in my foot sinking into this sand, my body having to work at least twice as hard.
The photogenic scenery and the thought that I could still make it in time for the buffet, are the only things that kept me going.
My eyes finally got a glimpse of Timberline Lodge. I could see it! I was almost there!! I knew I was going to make it in time for the buffet. I could have cried.
I arrived at the lodge and there were packs lined up outside. I knew I would see some familiar faces amongst all of the strangers. I was so excited! OH, and guess what??
I made it for the buffet! I also decided to get a room to mend to my injuries and get a good night sleep.
I was given the keys to room 217, and for those of you who have read the book the Shining, the room in Stephen King’s novel was 217, but was changed to 237 in the movie per the request of Timberline Lodge (room 237 does not exist at the Timberline Lodge, hence the change request). Although I did not find the room haunted, I was awoken around 2 am to a very quiet crunching noise. I quickly turned on the lights and looked to where the noise was coming from and there was nothing. This continued to happen and I still did not see any animal, yet I looked down at my Cheetos bag and sure enough, it had a mouse hole in it (which by the way, did not stop me from eating all of them the following day). I was not aware that I needed to protect my food in a hotel room, as much as i did outside! I covered the open vent, which I was guessing was where the mouse was getting in, packed up my food and put it in the bathroom sink, closing the bathroom door behind me.
My battle wounds didn’t look as bad as I thought they would, after cleaning them up. However, 4 months later, and I still have these story telling scars.